HC Deb 02 February 1981 vol 998 cc8-9
8. Mr. loan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest number of the unemployed in Wales; and how many redundancies have been announced since May 1979.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The latest figure is 133,500, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers. The number of redundancies notified since May 1979 under the provisions of the Employment Protection Act is 89,600.

Mr. Evans

As we now have the highest level of unemployment in the United Kingdom since 1935, the largest fall in output since 1931, the biggest jump in unemployment since 1930 and the situation in Wales is worse than in the other regions of the United Kingdom, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, although we welcome investment from Japan or elsewhere, the Government are committing economic hara-kiri if they are not prepared to change their attitude?

Mr. Edwards

The situation is completely different from that in the 1930s. Apart from anything else, there are millions more in work now. The statistics that the hon. Gentleman produces are therefore phoney. Even he should realise that the attraction of inward investment and the improvement of competitiveness are the best hopes for job creation.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the Secretary of State for Employment on almost doubling the number of places on the youth opportunities programme by the increase to 440,000? What consultations has he had with his right hon. Friend and with the Manpower Services Commission to ensure that a sufficient number of those places come to Wales?

Mr. Edwards

My right hon. Friend keeps in close touch with me about manpower measures. I have responsibility for the work of the Manpower Services Commission in Wales. There has been a substantial increase in the scale of the youth opportunities programme, with over 43,000 places being offered in Wales in the coming year.

Mr. Rowlands

In spite of the Secretary of State's renowned lack of interest in the coal industry in Wales, will he pay attention to the crisis meeting to be held on 10 February between the NCB and the NUM, which could herald for the first time in a decade premature and accelerated pit closures and large-scale compulsory redundancies? Will he therefore support the call for a special meeting of the tripartite committee of the Government, the NCB and the NUM to work out a genuine solution to the problems of the Welsh coalfields, and not, as he has done in the past 18 months, ignore them?

Mr. Edwards

I attach the greatest importance to the future of the coal industry. The Government are committed to the continuation of the Plan for Coal and are making available financial backing in excess of £800 million for the industry in the current year. I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's reference to the past decade. Under the Labour Government, between March 1974 and May 1979 seven pits were closed and six were merged—a total of 13. From November 1964 to June 1970, 36 pits in Wales were closed, with the loss of 30,000 jobs. We are merely experiencing part of a continuing process. We need continued investment in viable pits, which inevitably means the closure of the older and less economic pits.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must move on.

Forward to